AN ARTIST’S JOURNAL where family, friends and mysterious strangers can see my paintings as they’re created, and where I’m liable to write on just about anything – the joy of creating art; life in the country; and, as a follower of Christ, aspiring to glorify God in all I do.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Back to the studio!


Midwinter Hope II  © 2017 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12 x 12 inches • acrylic on deep cradled GessobordTM
private collection • Duaringa, Queensland, Australia

Experimenting with opaque and transparent colors, and simplified shapes in a craftsman style illustration. It was so cold in my studio today, with only a little space heater to boost the warmth seeping in from the living room. For a while I thought it would make things a little more fun if I imagined it was 1905 and I was working in my little Parisian garrett in the dead of winter. 

But then I started craving an éclair with café au lait, so I took a break and went next door to warm my hands by the fire for a bit, surrounded by snoring dogs.

Here's the reference photo that inspired this painting, a beautiful Christmas day sunset:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Red River Revel recap ...

Burning Bright  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
16 x 16 inches • oil on 1 ½ deep cradled GessobordTM
gloss varnish (UV protective) • sides painted dark umber


 the original painting from my eBay store

here in my eBay store

The Red River Revel arts & music festival last week was full of good fun, food, music and art of all kinds, with beautiful weather all the way through the eight-day event (nine if you include the Preview Party on Friday night before the first official day).

This is my third year to be juried into the Revel, and ever since that first year my sister Kathy has come out every time to help. I look forward to the “sister time” as much as the Revel itself!

Kathy designed and built our display. (Note the “Joanna Gaines” dusty blue shiplap touch in our corner storage area.) My brother Alan did the lighting.

Meet Madyson, one of my collectors. Last year she got a big horse picture, and here she is with this year’s acquisition, “Birdwatching,” which she has renamed “Darla” because of the resemblance to their family’s barn cat. We had a very nice conversation about pets and art (she’s an artist, too) while I signed her art card. We also discussed horses, and she told me that for her recent fourth birthday she had a horse party. (I’m not sure whether it was a party with her friends that was horse-themed, or a party where horses were actually invited. Either one sounds fun.)

As she walked away with her family, she called back over her shoulder, “See you next year!”

I’m honored to be included in her collection.

One of my favorite things about the Revel: meeting new artist friends.  Ana Maria Andricain, who designs and makes beautiful jewelry, was one of our “tent-mates” this year. We really enjoyed getting to know her and her Dad, who was there helping her all week.

Fellow artist Chase Mullen was one of our Revel neighbors for the last two years. A wonderful Louisiana wildlife artist, here he is tending his booth, talking with his wife on the phone, and working on a painting one of his collectors had commissioned at the beginning of the week. Who says men can’t multi-task?

I love the look of the Revel at night!

Farewell, Revel! Hope to be there next year!

Monday, September 19, 2016

A teaser ...

... for what’s on my easel right now.

And yes, I’m painting this as a shameless and not-at-all-subtle marketing ploy targeting any LSU or Grambling (or Auburn perhaps?) alum and/or fans who may be prowling around the Red River Revel arts festival in a couple of weeks ...

And I’m having fun doing it, too!

Simple gifts

Early morning sun on my studio door.

A visual poem.


Friday, September 16, 2016

The mind of the illustrator: Scattered Showers

Scattered Showers  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
16 x 16 inches (approx. 40x40 cm) • oil on 2" deep cradled (archival) GessobordTM
gloss varnish (UV protective)
sides painted dark umber • can be easily displayed with or without a frame


Very often it happens that when I’m planning a composition (especially landscapes), my reference photo serves as a springboard rather than strictly a map. The paintings that result usually end up being the ones I like best when they’re finished. They’re definitely my favorites to paint! 

My reference photo for this painting was a composite of about three photos I took one day on the way to town. (And before you start yelling at me for taking photos while driving, it just so happens that – this time! – Paul was behind the wheel whilst I wielded my trusty Canon EOS 7D Mark II.)

The main part that made me want to paint this was the billowy clouds. And I wanted a composition that would emphasize the sweep of the clouds up from the horizon. I exaggerated the curve of the road, the angle of the horizon and the height of the crest of the hill in the foreground to get the effect I wanted. 

It wasn’t my intention at the start to make the road into a dirt road, but by the time the underpainting was finished – and going totally against my own advice when I caution my students against falling so much in love with the underpainting that you don’t push the painting to an even more glorious destination – I had REALLY fallen hopelessly head over heels with all those great reds and oranges, so red Louisiana dirt the roads became. 

Hey, I think I just came up with a new maxim. Here, I’ll make it big and colorful and put it in italics so it has more authority:

Part of being an artist who also teaches art 
is knowing when to go against 
your own advice. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Morning fun

Sun Drop  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
3½ x 2½ inches (ACEO) • oil on ⅛" (archival) Ampersand EncausticbordTM
gloss varnish (UV protective)
NOTE: Fresh off the easel! Will be dry enough to ship September 24


Only September, but I’m already looking forward to when these little drops of sunshine appear in our yard in February.

A lot of fun this morning painting the shadows with fauve-a-fistic colors. And now that my color-loving juices are flowing, it’s back to the easel to work on something a bit larger ...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tabby cat painting, plus step by step photos


On the Veranda  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on ⅛" Ampersand Museum Series (archival) GessobordTM

private collection • Shreveport, Louisiana

Our Bailey, sometimes grumpy, but always as beautiful as a southern belle. Really she’s hanging out on the back porch, but I imagine she would refer to it as “lounging on the veranda.”

Always a joy to paint her, with all her interesting markings. Here are the progress photos:

First I transferred my drawing to my panel with graphite transfer paper. A hint to keep the drawing from smudging and graying my paint: I paint over the entire drawing with a mixture of titanium white acrylic and acrylic glazing medium. The medium makes the white transparent so I can still see my drawing, and after it dries, that pesky graphite is sealed in place under a layer of paint. 

Next I blocked the painting in, using only ultramarine. One of my very favorite compositional elements is a lost edge. Bailey’s markings and whiskers gave me plenty to play with!

After the first layer is dry, I add a glaze of the ultramarine on Bailey and a glaze of cobalt turquoise over the flowerpot in the background. (Currently I’m using Liquitex acrylic Gloss Medium & Varnish mixed with the paint to make my glazes.) With a damp paper towel, I gently "lift" some of the color from what will be the lightest areas of the painting.

Next, I added an Indian yellow glaze in those lightest areas. I wanted the glaze to be nice and yellow, so I mixed only a tiny amount of the medium to the paint.

Now things are starting to get FUN! I added a very transparent glaze of pyrrole red over the turquoise of the background flowerpot, giving me a nice warm stone color; another layer of ultramarine glaze and then quinacridone fuchsia glaze to the dark areas of Bailey; and the pyrrole red glaze to those light areas, making them a beautiful sunset orange.

Usually at this point I stop and eat lunch, or work on another painting, or fold some clean laundry or take a little walk for thirty minutes or so, to make sure the acrylic underpainting is good and dry before I start with the oils!

I knew I wanted to leave some of the underpainting showing in the darkest areas of the finished painting, so I at this stage I painted the light areas of her face in first, to give me an idea of where I could leave that vivid underpainting uncovered and still achieve the overall look I wanted.

Notice how the lights are not all the same, some are warm (cadmium orange or red mixed with white) and some are cool (blues or greens mixed with the white

At this point I’m really getting a sense of what the finished look will be. I start adding some of the background colors to help me make color decisions for Bailey’s coat. For example, after I added the green leaves near the top of the painting, I decided to echo that in oh-so-selective places in her fur, near the bottom of the picture. Also, to make her a little less grumpy, I added the light-colored downward stroke at the outside top of each eye, which look kind of like an eyelashes or a little eye whisker. You can also see by comparing the finished photo below with this one that I changed the shape of the top edge of her right eye (her right, not ours) ever so subtly – I took out the little dip right above the pupil. This has the effect of very slightly softening her expression.

Note: I hardly ever use black on my palette these days; those dark areas in the background are a mixture of Caribbean blue, quinacridone rose and veridian green.

Comparing this photo with the one above, you can see that I made her eyes a bit lighter and glassier (remember that eyes are very reflective, and so will have a lot of different colors which reflect the surroundings). 

I also noticed that her mouth wasn’t quite right. (Actually, it was my sister the former veterinary tech and animal artist herself who brought this to my attention. I sent her this progress pic and she texted back that it looked like Bailey was pursing her lips.) After studying my reference photo for a few seconds I saw that the little line under the tip of Bailey’s nose was a smidge too long. Easy correction!

When the painting is finished, I use a plastic mechanical pencil with the lead screwed all the way down inside the tip, as a stylus to scratch my signature in the paint.

And heeeeeere’s Bailey!